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Talk.com and Access One To Launch Marketing Effort

Telecommunications providers Talk.com and Access One Communications are set to launch a multifaceted direct marketing campaign, offering each of the companies' products to their customers.

The two companies, which agreed to merge last month, will target about 400,000 customers in nine Southeastern states using a combination of telemarketing, direct mail and online advertising.

Access One, Orlando, FL, provides local telephone service to about 300,000 customers in the Southeast who will be offered the Talk.com package of long-distance telephone services. Talk.com customers within Access One’s territory who use a different local telephone provider will be offered the opportunity to switch to local service from Access One.

George Vinall, executive vice president business development at Reston, VA-based Talk.com, said the company is planning its first mail drop of 286,000 pieces on May 1.

The direct mail program will include about 12 test cells of different creative formats and different offers, including coupons for discounted service, three months of free Internet access and live checks. The telemarketing campaign also will incorporate tests of different offers.

“We’ve done all these before, but never to this exact customer base, which is why we’re going to test it all over again,” Vinall said.

Talk.com provides long-distance telephone service to more than 1.5 million customers throughout the United States. It is the exclusive long-distance partner of America Online and offers discounted long-distance telephone service to AOL subscribers. Talk.com uses the Internet for billing, customer service and marketing; although, Vinall said, traditional direct marketing outperforms online advertising for acquiring new customers.

“We’ve found that online advertising isn’t really that effective,” he said. “We use it more as a way to get some public interest going.”

Vinall said Talk.com will use the information it receives from Access One, which provides local telecommunications service, to determine which Internet service providers its customers are using. That information will help it place online banner and pop-up ads offering Talk.com’s long distance services.

Talk.com does not use e-mail as an acquisition tool because of “concerns about spamming issues,” Vinall said. The company does, however, communicate via e-mail newsletters to its existing customers.

In addition to marketing each other’s services to their existing subscribers, the two companies also will combine the two services into a blended package and offer it to new customers.

Marketing efforts supporting the prospecting initiative will follow the launch of the marketing to existing customers, Vinall said. When the company does launch is customer acquisition efforts, he said it would probably trade lists of customers with its advertising partners.

“We’ve found that cold lists usually don’t work too well for us,” he said. “We found that lists that we have some type of relationship with work the best.”

The merger agreement with Access One, which has yet to be approved by shareholders and regulators, will pit Talk.com head-to-head against BellSouth Corp. in the Southeast.

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